By Michael Moynihan
Cork 1-24 Kilkenny 0-24: This first NHL game - under lights - in the redeveloped Pairc Ui Chaoimh saw Cork drive to a thrilling win in front of 16,180 spectators.
Cork defended the City End in the first half and had 1-1 on the scoreline after three minutes thanks to Robbie O’Flynn and Shane Kingston respectively.
Kilkenny were level five minutes later with captain Cillian Buckley (0-2) leading the charge.
Two frees from ‘keeper Eoin Murphy put Kilkenny ahead, 1-2 to 0-7, but the sides were level by the end of the first quarter of a free-flowing game.
Walter Walsh and Alan Murphy put Kilkenny two up on 28 minutes after a super Eoin Murphy save from Harnedy, but Lehane (free) and O’Flynn tied it up.
Colm Spillane grabbed the lead for Cork but in injury time Richie Reid hit a beauty from the wing and Alan Murphy added another to make it 0-15 to 1-11 at the half.
Cork pushed ahead five minutes into the second half thanks to a Lehane free, only for sub TJ Reid to equalise with a Kilkenny free, 1-14 to 0-17, on 45 minutes.
The scoring rate had dipped somewhat in the second half but turning into the last quarter Cork were two ahead thanks to Lehane, but TJ Reid (free) and Walter Walsh had Kilkenny on terms with five minutes left.
The game was held up for a significant period for medical treatment to Kilkenny captain Cillian Buckley, which led to eight minutes’ injury time.
Cork jumped to a three point lead and the Cats just couldn’t overhaul them.
Scorers for Cork: C. Lehane (0-11, 0-9 frees); S. Kingston (1-1); R. O’Flynn, A. Cadogan, S. Harnedy (0-2); L. Meade, D. Kearney, M. Ellis, C. Spillane, D. Fitzgibbon, J. O’Connor (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kilkenny: A. Murphy (0-5, 3 frees); C. Buckley, R. Reid, TJ Reid (frees) (0-3 each); E. Murphy (frees), W. Walsh (0-2 each); P. Lyng, J. Maher, M. Keoghan, C. Martin, C. Fogarty, P. Walsh (0-1 each).
Cork: P. Collins, S. O’Donoghue, E. Cadogan, C. Spillane, C. Joyce, T. O’Mahony, D. Fitzgibbon, B. Lawton, R. O’Flynn, C. Lehane, D. Kearney, A. Cadogan, S. Harnedy (c), S. Kingston.
Subs: L. Meade for Lawton (26); M. Cahalane for R. O’Flynn (56); R. O’Shea for D. Kearney (blood 57-60); J. O’Connor for A. Cadogan (62).
Kilkenny: E. Murphy, J. Holden, P. Walsh, P. Deegan, C. O’Shea, J. Lyng, C. Buckley (c), C. Fogarty, J. Maher, M. Keoghan, R. Reid, P. Lyng, A. Murphy, W. Walsh, C. Martin.
Subs: J. Donnelly and TJ Reid for C. Martin and M. Keoghan (44); L. Blanchfield for A. Murphy (50); R. Leahy for J. Maher (56); E. Morrissey for C. Buckley (inj., 65).
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).